Nima Kafai  is a massive Arsenal fan and has been a fantasy football manager since 12/13 with a best overall rank of 1,102 in the 19/20 season. This will be his 8th season of FPL and he is targeting a consecutive Top 10k finish. Keep a look out for his Gameweek reviews/previews over the course of this season. FPL OR since 16/17: 124k/ 88k/ 119k/ 1k

The best Arsenal assets to own for Gameweek 1 in Fantasy Premier League 2020/21 

Arsenal will start the season facing two of the worst defences in the Premier League. In this article, I will be looking at the key assets to consider from Arsenal for this very favourable run against Fulham (away) and West Ham (home). Last time Fulham were in the Premier League, they conceded not only the most goals, but also 102 big chances. Similarly last season West Ham conceded 103 big chances in the Premier League.

However it is important to note that the fixtures turn sour very quickly, starting with Liverpool in Gameweek 3 through to Man United in Gameweek 7. Historically I avoid having players in my team that are pre-planned transfers out after a short term punt but with both Manchester clubs missing Gameweek 1 it has led to me adapting my strategy. I believe it is worth owning one or two Arsenal assets for these two juicy fixtures then selling for Man United or Manchester City assets after their respective blanks.

I wanted to share my thinking about premium assets in the 2020/21 season first. Historically my strategy has been to hold onto a maximum of two to three premium assets for rotating captaincy week to week whilst looking for one or two lower owned differentials to attack my rank. This season there are nine assets priced at £10m and above and 13 assets priced at £9.5m and above. There is specifically an abundance of high flying premium midfielders who make up six out of the nine premium £10m+ assets: Salah, Mane, Aubameyang, De Bruyne, Sterling and Fernandes.

Therefore, this season it feels more important than ever before to own the right premium asset at the right time. Last year the biggest impact on my overall rank was being ahead of the curve by one to two Gameweeks when bringing in Aguero (c) before his 20 point return and then moving away from him to Aubameyang (c) when Aguero started to tail off and other managers had arrived late to that party. 

In both instances I brought in the player that I felt was the best captaincy option whilst they were still low on effective ownership. This season my plan is to keep my cheaper assets as the spine of my team and barring injuries/suspension to only use my precious transfers on jumping between premiums before they have their explosive points returns. 

Without further ado, let’s explore the Arsenal assets worth considering for your Gameweek 1 team:

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£12m) – MID

Aubameyang has been reclassified as a midfielder this year so will be earning an additional point per goal as well as clean sheet points. If he was a midfielder last year, he would have been the third highest scorer in FPL (230 points). It is extremely difficult to consider going without the Gunner’s talisman for the first two games, bearing in mind the defensive frailties of his opposition. 

Despite it being Arsenal’s worst league season in 25 years, Aubameyang still managed to score 22 goals for a second consecutive season and was just one goal behind golden boot winner Vardy in an Arsenal team that was totally devoid of any midfield creativity. Aubameyang had 51% goal involvement (GI) for his team in games that he played – out of the £10m+ premiums only Fernandes had a higher GI but notably played only 38% of the minutes that Aubameyang played (1,192mins vs 3,138mins). WGTA’s Talisman Theory article further cemented Aubameyang as a must have for me in my Gameweek 1 team.

Aligning with my new adapted strategy of rotating premiums for captaincy this season, it would also appear that Aubameyang is the ideal placeholder for a swap to a Manchester City premium from Gameweek 3 onwards. He’s also a fantastic alternate captaincy option in Gameweek 1 to Salah who faces Leeds. Leeds may be a newly promoted team but I believe Bielsa is busy preparing his dossier on how to shutdown the Liverpool fullbacks and dampen their attacking threat. Man City face Wolves in Gameweek 2 when Arsenal play West Ham so I am willing to wait until Gameweek 3 before moving on from Auba to either De Bruyne or Sterling.

Verdict: A must own in Gameweek 1 (especially if adopting the rotating premiums for captaincy strategy).

Nicolas Pepe (£8m) – MID

Pepe struggled to adapt to the Premier League in his first season and had a slow start. He started picking up some pace towards the end of the season and looked to be a key part of Arteta’s plan. If he were to play 3,000 minutes he would be straight into my team but I’m not confident of him securing those minutes. He should improve this season but won’t be in my starting team until we see more. 

What I like the most about him is his relationship with Aubameyang (he assisted him the most last season) and how directly he plays. Pepe’s underlying stats and output were subpar last season, and it’s unclear what effect Willian will have on the team from an FPL perspective (one drawback is that Willian could take some set pieces from Pepe)

It is certainly possible that he emerges as a good asset but I would wait and see rather than gamble from the start. He is a high risk high reward player which I am considering from Gameweek 8 when Arsenal’s fixtures get better again as part of an Arsenal attacking double up.

Verdict: Worth considering if he can secure the starts and minutes but not for Gameweek 1. 

Willian Borges Da Silva (£8m) – MID

Willian is a fantastic team player but we don’t know yet if he will be primarily playing as a winger or potentially as an attacking midfielder in the number 10 role. His final points tally last season is also slightly inflated with conversions of set pieces which he may not be on for Arsenal.

I would wait and see how he performs at the start of the season or at the very least to see how Arteta lines up in the Community Shield on Saturday 29th August if you are eager to double up on Aubameyang and Willian for Gameweeks 1-2 before swapping out to Man City and Man United assets.

We need to see whether Lacazette is staying at Arsenal this summer to get a clearer picture of how the team will shape up with Willian’s signing. If Lacazette stays, I could see Willian playing more of a number 10 role. Alternatively with the departure of Lacazette, I predict a front 3 of Willian, Aubameyang and Pepe with Aubameyang through the middle.

For me it is a definite wait and see and I would not be going near him for your Gameweek 1 team. Longer term this season, if he plays centrally he will bring the creativity that Arsenal so sorely missed last season which should enable the likes of Aubameyang and Pepe and thus make them very attractive.

Verdict: One for your watchlist and highly dependent on his role in the team once we know if Lacazette is staying.

Alexandre Lacazette (£8.5m) – FOR

There are rumours of Juventus coming in for Lacazette this summer but we have not seen anything concrete yet. Personally I feel there are much better options in both Danny Ings and Raul Jimenez available at the same price point. If you wanted to double up with Aubameyang for Gameweek 1 as a punt, then I could see the appeal in using Lacazette as a placeholder for Anthony Martial in Gameweeks 2/3.

If he stays put at Arsenal this summer and he starts in the Community Shield then it should indicate that he will start at least the first couple of Premier League fixtures too. Beware he is not nailed with Nketiah waiting to steal his minutes on the sidelines.

Verdict: Lots of uncertainty around him at the moment and I would avoid. With that price tag I’d rather have Jimenez or Ings for Gameweek 1.

Bukayo Saka (£5.5m) – MID

He was given a new contract but whether Saka will be a starting XI player this season remains to be seen. He broke into the team last season playing as an emergency LB but this season I do not expect him to be starting games over Tierney (who has Kolasinac as back-up for rotation/injury). 

If Arsenal were to play a back three with Tierney as left-side centre back and Saka as a left wing-back then it would be a bit more exciting. I do not see him breaking into the front three for enough minutes to be a viable FPL asset should Arsenal shape up in a back four though. Even in a back three, we saw that Maitland-Niles was preferred in the left wing-back role in the closing games of the season.

He will be heavily rotated as he is very versatile and can play in a number of positions. With Aubameyang, Pepe, Laca and Willian fighting for the three attacking spots, it feels too big a risk to start with Saka in your Gameweek 1 team. He also faces competition from the other Arsenal youth players such as Smith-Rowe, Martinelli, Nketiah, Nelson and Willock.

Verdict: It’s a wait and see as he is likely to be heavily rotated this season. Once we see the Community Shield team and whether Lacazette is staying then he could be an exciting partner to Aubameyang from Gameweek 8 onwards as a double up. Personally I would prefer paying the extra £2.5mil for the explosiveness of Pepe or Willian as a number 10.

Kieran Tierney (£5.5m) – DEF

Tierney had an injury riddled season last year but you could see that he is a fantastic player with an insane work ethic too. At £5.5m it feels a little steep for an Arsenal defender if he plays as a left centre-back in a back three but should Gabriel be signed and Tierney pushed to a left wing-back role then I believe he is a very exciting asset for FPL. 

Similarly to Aubameyang being a placeholder for Manchester premium assets, I am currently sitting with Tierney in my Gameweek 1 team for the first two fixtures with a plan to swap him out to Doherty in Gameweek 3 and go for a Wolves defensive double up once their Sheffield United and Man City games are out of the way.

Verdict: Wait and see how Arsenal shape up in the Community Shield but an exciting two week punt if he is playing as left wing-back in a back three or a left back in a back four. Longer term I expect him to be an FPL manager favourite over the course of the season and once Arsenal’s fixtures improve again from Gameweek 8 onwards.

William Saliba (£4.5m) – DEF

He is coming into an Arsenal team that has significantly improved from a defensive point of view with the arrival of Arteta. I would be wary of starting out with him in Gameweek 1 as he’s very young and does lack Premier League experience. He has been brought in to be a starter long-term but we need to see whether he is integrated in early by Arteta. Currently only Saliba, Holding and Luiz are fit to start the season and the Community Shield line up should give some further clarity. If Arsenal sign Gabriel it definitely becomes much trickier to predict who starts.

Verdict: Not for Gameweek 1 – keep an eye on him as he is worth it should he secure the starts.

From the above, who are the best assets to own in GW1?

My current preference would be (from best to worst):

  1. Aubameyang
  2. Pepe
  3. Tierney 
  4. Willian
  5. Saliba
  6. Saka 
  7. Lacazette

In my current draft I have Aubameyang with the captain’s armband. I also have Tierney but will wait to see if Gabriel is signed and how we shape up in pre-season games as well as the Community Shield before committing. Saliba is very exciting and would be much higher up the list if I was certain he would be in Arteta’s starting XI. As with any budget defenders at his price point, the most likely returns are clean sheets and as this is heavily dependent on fixtures it feels that we can afford to wait for Saliba to bed in first and decide around Gameweek 8.

Other interesting players for your watchlist that we have not looked at in this article

  1. Eddie Nketiah  (£6m) – FOR – wait to see if Lacazette stays.
  2. Bernd Leno  (£5m)/ Emi Martinez (£4.5m) – GK – need to see which one is the number one this season first.

I hope this was useful and thank you for reading. To make sure the content is useful for everybody, I’d love to hear from you if you have any questions, comments or general feedback.

Happy Tinkering!

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